Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Ireland now hungry to rewrite the history books

Australia 21 Ireland 26

Unstoppable: Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong scores his side’s second try while
Unstoppable: Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong scores his side’s second try while
Andrew Conway touches down

By Ruaidhri O’Connor

Before they made this trip down under, the Ireland squad were guests of Australian's ambassador and at the farewell barbecue they rubbed shoulders with members of the last team to beat the Wallabies on home soil.

The captain of the 1979 team, Philip Orr, is on tour in his capacity as IRFU president and has been reminding the current players of the significance of that series win, while Joe Schmidt sought out the hero of the tour Ollie Campbell for a quiet word before departure.

Schmidt's team are determined to rewrite the history books and 39 years to the day since Campbell kicked his team to a famous 9-3 win in Sydney, they bridged the gap with a powerful performance on Saturday.

Next weekend they will look to end this most successful of seasons by ending another long wait for a first series win over one of the Southern Hemisphere's big three.

Not known for hyperbole, the head coach chose not to understate the task at hand.

"It is going to massive, absolutely massive," he said of the final week. "If we can pull this one off, it will be a little bit special for this group.

"It was great to get another debutant on today with Tadhg Beirne because that keeps growing the competition internally, to help us be as competitive as we can be externally, because the competition does not get much hotter than 1-1 in Sydney against the Wallabies with a chance to win the series."

The players are fully aware of the significance of the occasion as they go in search of a grand finale. "We play these games to win them, we play these series to win them," Devin Toner said. "We don't just come down for a tour to Australia.

"The lads from 1979 are still being talked about, so we want to be talked about in another couple of years as well. We're doing great things with this team and we're in a special place, so we want to win as much as we can."

On Saturday, they proved once again that they are a match for any team and they are now fully determined to go out and finish the job.

After their opening night defeat in Brisbane, the Six Nations champions rebounded with a performance befitting their status as the world's second best team.

In the space of a week, Schmidt managed to right almost all of the wrongs of the first Test loss as they dominated the tackle area, held on to the ball and opened up the Australians as the return of Tadhg Furlong, Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose had the desired effect.

The coach's call at hooker was vindicated by Niall Scannell's high-octane effort and an improved scrum, while they will look at their discipline and option-taking in attack as their chief areas to improve this week.

Despite scoring early and finishing strong, Australia were firmly second best and if they had managed to steal a win at the death it would have been daylight robbery.

Now the focus switches to a grand finale at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney.

Tickets for the final Test sold out before the series got under way and after two cracking games it should be a fitting finish.

Schmidt's side were in this position two years ago when they let the South Africa series slip and they are determined not to let history repeat itself.

"It was really frustrating," Conor Murray said.

"To go down there and win a series would have been unbelievable. It was a great building process for the team at the time with a few young lads there, but that was the series we let slip. We were definitely in winning positions and, for whatever reasons, we came up short.

"Bodies are fresh, hopefully we get a clean bill of health from the physios and medical staff.

"It's the last game of our season and I know we're really hungry to win a series down here. Whatever about the history, 1979, this is our team, our standards and that is what we want to get."

Toner is determined not to finish a successful season on a low.

"It lingers with you for the whole summer. You're on your holidays and you're thinking about it," he said of 2016.

"A lot of the lads will remember that and that will be in the back of our heads."

After a bruising encounter, their coach will assess the fitness of his squad this morning with Andrew Conway (hip), Cian Healy (shoulder) and Dan Leavy (sternum) the chief concerns. Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale and Iain Henderson will come back into the reckoning and after using 31 of his 32 tourists to date, Schmidt re-affirmed his commitment to experimentation while maintaining his focus on the overall prize.

"We knew there were risks that we took in the first Test," he said of his initial selection.

"But if we did not take those risks, then you will never know. What we didn't want to get to, as a coaching staff, was to be a year down the track and still not know. So that was part of it and that will continue to be a part of it, but balancing that is an opportunity that is a little bit special.

"There were some absolutely champions, (the 1979 team) who have done the two in a row over here. I spoke to Ollie Campbell before I came out here, he is a fantastic fellah, and a guy I have a huge amount of respect for.

"At the same time it is a little bit of a challenge, for this modern team, can they do it?

"I guess in a week's time we will know."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph